Sports At Large: Let's (Not) Raise Our Drinks (And Say We Did)!
University of Maryland president Wallace Loh has proposed to break with tradition once again, by allowing the sale of beer and wine to the general public at the football and basketball arenas on campus beginning in the fall.
You heard it right: the president of a major university wants to sell alcohol during sporting events on campus.
In fairness, this isn’t entirely Loh’s idea. Not surprisingly, the suggestion bubbled up from the student body on the rationalization that allowing beer and wine sales will curb binge drinking.
The idea cleared the Athletic Council, an advisory body made up mostly of faculty, though Loh had to admit in a letter to the campus community that a majority of the faculty opposed the move.
This isn’t a unique idea. Twenty-five percent of Football Bowl Subdivision schools – the NCAA branch that Maryland is in – already permit beer sales during games.
Of those 32 schools, 21 allow for purchases in on-campus facilities like Maryland’s Byrd Stadium and Xfinity Center, where beer and wine are already sold in luxury suites.
In that campus letter, Loh posited that beer and wine sales during games will reduce the instances of binge drinking, and cited examples from schools where alcohol is sold.
Also in that letter, Loh said the move would quote enhance the fan experience unquote.
There are two problems with that idea.
First, it runs counter to the experience that many people have at sporting events. For many fans, attending games can be a nightmare as they are surrounded by liquor-soused louts who display completely inappropriate conduct.
If you’ve been to Oriole Park or to the Ravens stadium or caught a Blast game at the arena, you likely know all too well that sports and alcohol frequently produce a behavior that can make it impossible for parents to bring young children.
College contests are respites for these parents because games on campus are supposed to be alcohol-free. Allowing beer and wine to be sold could take that oasis away.
And secondly, since the legal drinking age in Maryland is 21, three-quarters of students on campus in theory shouldn’t be drinking.
Yet, despite promises that no alcohol will be sold near student sections, beer and wine will end up in the hands of students more easily this way than if no beer or wine were sold.
And when you get right down to it, this move, like most moves taking place in College Park, is about money. Loh estimates that the school will take in a half million dollars in sales of beer and wine in the first year.
The president pledges that proceeds will go to mental health counseling, responsible drinking programs and sexual assault awareness programs, all noble pursuits.
But when the Prince George’s County Liquor Board meets next month, it should take the opportunity to do something few have done to Wallace Loh in the last two years: say no.